Israel-Hamas Conflict – Bhagvad Gita Perspective

by Chaitanya CharanJanuary 20, 2024



The Bhagavad Gita perspective on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Social media and mainstream media is now filled with images of thousands of missiles being sent by the Hamas, which is the Palestinian extremist group in the Gaza Strip, attacking Israel in various cities. How do we see this terrible conflict with which thousands of people have been killed and uncountable number of people have been taken hostages, and the conflict seems to be on the verge of escalating?

I’ll talk about it from three different points, three Ns. The first N is the Nature of the violence, second is the Necessity for confrontational approaches, and last is Need for approaches beyond the confrontational. So first, while violence is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of life in this world, at the same time, the Bhagavad Gita is very careful in ensuring that violence is used within limits.

The Kshatriyas are a specially trained class of people who are meant to protect others from harm and to use force if required for that purpose. They are meant Kshatriya. They are meant to protect others from hurt and Kshatriyas never attack civilians.

That’s why the Kurukshetra war was fought at a particular designated venue, namely Kurukshetra, where the civilians were neither targeted nor killed. But the terrorist violence that we are seeing in these current attacks where missiles are launched indiscriminately, including largely on civilian targets and territories, is the antithesis of Kshatriya violence, where unarmed and unprepared, unsuspecting civilians alone are targeted for the purpose of creating fear and intimidation and terror. So, such violence against civilians needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

The second point is the necessity of confrontational approaches at times. While we all would like that conflicts be minimized or avoided or resolved by peaceful means, the reality is that sometimes some people are so maddened by their hunger for power, by their memories of grievance and the cravings for vengeance, or by their extreme ideologies, that they essentially become wicked, and that means that there is no talking sense with them.

In fact, trying to have a peaceful negotiation with such elements ends up essentially appeasing them, and appeasing people who are wicked only empowers and emboldens them to do far worse things in the future. That’s how in one way the Second World War escalated with Victor Chamberlain, the British premier, appeasing Hitler repeatedly while his expansionist activities engulfed much of Europe. So, appeasement will not work with extremist elements, and the need for confrontational approaches to weed out such elements has to be acknowledged. This in fact is the purpose of Kshatriyas.

The Bhagavad Gita says that when such approaches are required, Kshatriyas, the warrior class, they are the martial protectors of society, they do not flinch from violence. They are ready to fight where it is required. Having said that, the third point is the need for solutions beyond the confrontational.

While confrontation is required for those who are power hungry or maddened into war, whatever reason, most people from any demographic are not power hungry like that. Most people simply want to go ahead with their lives. And that’s why it’s vital that no community be lumped together in any particular way.

This particular conflict can be seen solely in religious terms and one religion attacking another and another religion trying to defend itself. And yes, the religious dimension is important in that, but humans are complex beings, and religious ideologies might motivate some people toward extremism, it is not the sole motivator for most people. We see that in the Abrahamic Accords which were inconceivable maybe a few years ago, but Israel has been able to have some kind of peaceful relations and some accord being established with UAE and also with the Saudi Arabia by de facto. So, the factors other than solely religious can guide decisions and that’s where the Bhagavad Gita’s analysis of human nature into the three modes, sattva, rajas and tamas is helpful.

The mode of tamas is associated with complaining and violence and destruction. The mode of rajas is associated with craving and fighting or doing whatever is required to fulfil the craving. The mode of sattva is associated with clarifying, trying to understand.

So, solution will not come simply by thinking that we will eradicate the enemy and thus we alone will reign. Once we go on the path of eradicating those whom we oppose or those who oppose us, where is it going to stop? Because there will always be someone or the other who opposes us. That’s why those who are extremists, those who are influenced or controlled by the mode of ignorance, they need to be neutralized.

But the vast majority is not that destructive or vindictive. Especially those who are in sattva, those who are with somewhat risen consciousness, if they are engaged with, if they are empowered, then they can come together and find a solution of some level of meaning. Now, the Bhagavad Gita says this world is a place of distress, dukhalaya. What that means is that there will never be any perfect solutions. No one will have a world in which they have no enemies, but what we can do is, even if we can’t have perfect solutions, we can at least have trade-offs. If not the most tolerable trade-offs, at least the least intolerable trade-offs. If with hard-eyed realism, people in sattva from both sides come together and have discussions, of course, after the extremist elements have been purged, then the non-confrontational approaches can also help us to come towards some level of peace. This is where the Bhagavad Gita’s wisdom offers humanity in general and seekers in particular, thoughtful seekers in particular, resources for raising human consciousness.

While pursuing violent means to curb extremists, simultaneously non-confrontational methods are pursued to eventually establish a more workable peace, that is the way to go beyond such horrifying confrontations that are happening. Our prayers for the souls of all those who have unfortunately lost their lives and our prayers for strength to all those who have survived such losses. We hope that higher consciousness manifests and peace prevails soon.

End of transcription.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan